Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Villains, Inc
AUTHORS: Helena Maeve, Stephanie Rabig, Casssandra Pierce, Sumi, Michelle Chow, A.D. Truax
PUBLISHER: Less Than Three Press
LENGTH: 344 pages
RELEASE DATE: June 15, 2016
Everybody loves a good villain. The glory shouldn’t always go to the presumed golden heroes of the story. Be they antiheroes, misunderstood, or people who love causing trouble simply for the pleasure of it, these stories focus on the baddies we all adore.
When Shadows Touch Mountains by Helena Maeve
Strait of Monsters by Stephanie Rabig
Famished by Cassandra Pierce
Vinc by Michelle Chow
Good Things Come by Sumi
Mandelbrot by A. D. Truax
Villains Inc. is an anthology all about the bad guys…and the people who end up falling in love with them. Drawn from ancient myth, Gothic tradition, and even comic book stories, these six short tales let the dark side get their turn at telling their side.
When Shadows Touch Mountains by Helena Maeve — 3.5 stars
Kirth, put in chains for the murder of his father, is sold to Mordred by a man seeking favor with the conquering warrior and son of the king of Camelot. In the service of this villain Kirth finds himself witnessing a man of undeniable attraction, but also cold demeanor. Along with Modred’s Captain, Kirth is drawn deeper into the war for Camelot, and for its Black King-to-be.
While this was a very well written short story, I admit that my overall dislike of all things Arthurian made it not as enjoyable for me as it will probably be for others. I did like that the author did not pull back from showing the less than moral righteousness of Mordred, but also at the same time made him a very compelling character. You kinda end up hating how much you like him by the end. And telling the story thru Kirth’s pov kept me from turning my back on the story from sheer dislike of the other main characters. He brings a humanity to the story that is essential. Had this not been about Arthur and Camelot and so forth it probably would have got a higher rating, but it was still good despite my dislike of the source material.
Strait of Monsters by Stephanie Rabig — 3.5 stars
Set in the land of Greek myths and monsters, this story is about a young woman, Chryssa. After having trusted a friend with the secret that she was really a woman–and having been betrayed–Chryssa leaves her life in the hands of fate by jumping off the boat where she has been employed…before she is forcibly thrown off. But while she escapes with her life, the island where she finds shelter is hardly safe. As it is home to Medusa and her stony gaze.
Arthurian legends and now Greek mythology. Wow, I must have pissed the gods off somehow. Well…like the previous story in this anthology, I do not have much bad to say about the content of the story itself. It is just the source material being high on my list of things I could happily live my life without having to read about…again. There was some confusion in the beginning in regards to pronouns, but once I figured out the character was trans it all made sense. This one was a bit less kill-y than the first story, which I appreciated, but still had a villain worth her salt to keep it interesting. So far the writing of these stories has been really good, so I am looking forward to what comes next.
(Though if it is about a dystonia future or a emo-vampire I might just cry.)
Famished by Cassandra Pierce — 4.25 stars
Not all books are harmless…especially those in Baylock’s Abbey. From father to son, for nearly 500 years, the caretaking of the Abbey has belonged to Baylock’s family. But there is a dark secret in the walls of the Abbey. One that is still deadly all these years on.
Well. That certainly wasn’t a story to read at midnight, in the dark, with bastard cats ready to pounce on you at just the right moment (yes, yes, that unholy shriek was me). In the vein of many a Gothic horror story, this short was a right good blend of creepy and mysterious. With a bit of ill-timed romance just for the hell of it. Despite my desire to never turn off the lights again, I must say that i really enjoyed this one.
I did find the tone it was written in kinda off though. For a while I didn’t even realize that it was taking place in our current time, and not, say, at the end of the 19th century.
Vinc by Michelle Chow — 2.5 stars
Tyler has a bit of a problem…that is becoming a bigger problem by the day. And if he is not careful, his problem could very well end up burning the city to ash–if only to see it burn. But what is a were-salamander to do, when fire is in his very blood?
While I certainly liked the premise of this story, the execution was a bit off. The heavy reliance on exposition meant the dialogue felt clunky, and it tripped up the flow of the story itself. By the end I couldn’t help feel that this was a much bigger story crammed into such a small space that it was strangling itself at every turn. A lot of plot points were glossed over, and the climax fizzled. Had the characters been given ample time to grow into themselves, I could have seen myself really enjoying this, but as it was it felt underdone and half finished. Not to mention that trying to shoehorn the romance in at the eleventh hour did not make any sense at all.
Good Things Come by Sumi — 1.5 stars
Erigus is an incubus stuck in a dead-end job, with an eternity of boredom stretched out before him. That is until his best friend, and succubus, drags him out on one of her jobs and his eyes are opened to a whole new world of devilish delight.
Yeah…nope. So very much nope. Starting off, I’ve read too many versions of the incubus-finds-love story to find this plot interesting. There just wasn’t enough here to make the trope feel fresh. Plus I was a little leery of the way it (probably accidentally) tied “childlike” and “sexy” together in several sentences. I think it was going for the whole corruption of innocence feel…but the author really should have thought thru that word choice a bit longer because it came off a bit icky. And I don’t care if these are bad guys, I really don’t want to read icky.
And speaking of word choices…let’s just say that I find the word “pussy” to be kinda nauseating. And this story uses it. A lot. It pretty much put a definite end to any sexy thoughts I might have had, from practically the first page. I’m really not someone who enjoys reading about pointless and meaningless sex, to begin with, so this story and I were doomed from the beginning. But the bland characterizations and scattered plot, didn’t help matters either.
Mandelbrot by A. D. — 4.5 stars
Lew is the new villain in town, and he intends to take down the reigning superhero and usher in a new era to the city. He just has to get the hero’s attention. Which is why he kidnaps the guy’s boyfriend. That’s bound to work wonders. Except the hero seems to not notice that his lover, Evander, has been kidnapped. Highly inconvenient–for both Lew and Evander.
Yes. This is pretty much what I was hoping for when I picked up this anthology to review. I really loved this short, and thought the whole superhero mythos of this universe gave a fresh spin to an already flourishing sub-genre. Had several of the other stories in this book done such a good job at building up a world and characters that were as instantly entertaining, I would have been absolutely thrilled with this book.
While I wouldn’t say this story made reading the whole bunch worth it, it certainly left me on a high note and that is greatly appreciated. I found Lew and Evander very well written. And that whole elevator scene o’ tension was electrifying. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for more by this author.